Holistic branding… It's more than just a New Age term. It's a big picture view of your camp's marketing, a way of making sure that all the parts of your marketing work together.
It refers to the simple practice of making sure that each aspect of your marketing effort reflects back and strengthens each other.
Each aspect, each piece of the marketing puzzle should fit harmoniously together to create a cohesive and effective whole that is stronger and more effective than any of the individual elements that have gone into it.
It is the process of creating a brand, and then consistently supporting that brand across every phase of your contact with the public.
What is Branding?
Branding is a term that is often bandied about but is not always understood.
Think of it this way… If you were to spend an entire year walking up to people and telling them that you have the best summer camp in the area… well, all that effort, all that contact, all the time and thought that you put into making sure that everyone you met knew how great your camp was… well, that is marketing.
If after that year of consistent effort, someone you have never met before walks up to you and says, "Hey… I hear you have the best summer camp in the area." Well, that is branding.
Branding is the end result of all your marketing efforts. It is the sum of all the smaller parts.
Branding is a way to control how your audience feels about your camp. And hopefully, you have made the effort to ensure that the way they feel about your camp is the way you want them to feel about your camp.
How do you make your target audience feel the same way about your camp as you do? By the consistency of effort of holistic branding.
Elements of Branding
First, let's look at a few of the individual elements they go into the creation of a holistic brand…
-your Web site
-your direct mail
-your trade show displays
Quite a list… But they are all pieces of the whole. Everything mentioned (and this list only mentions the obvious elements), each piece, each element, each aspect, contributes and needs to reflect back upon the whole in a way that is consistent and meaningful to your audience.
Let's look at two aspects of marketing to see how one weak performing element can reduce the effect of the whole.
One of the obvious, and for some camps, the biggest, area of concern is the camp Web site.
While we will be going into more detail in a later article, let's touch on some Web site basics. These are simple absolutes for Web design. Drop the ball here, and you could be putting out the wrong kind of message about your camp.
1) It should be easy to navigate from one page to the next.
2) It should be very easy to read, and understandable.
3) All important information should be easily accessible.
4) It should look professional.
5) It should make kids want to attend and make parents secure in sending their kids there.
The last part is very important. If kids cannot find what they are looking for in a summer camp quickly, they are going to move on and move on fast. By the same token, if your Web site does not show your camp in the best light, a parent might get the feeling that your camp is not serious about its mission.
Brochures are the linking element in a lot of marketing, and very rightly so. They are permanent reminders of your camp in every household they are sent to. They are always there. They do not have to wait for a computer to boot up and Web site to load. Your brochure is there on the table, the desk or the refrigerator, right in front of your ideal campers.
Many camps use the brochure as the primary marketing tool. It often contains applications and forms, or it may be used to direct families to visit the Web site for more information, and hopefully to register right there online.
The Need for Consistency
Can you begin to see how all this works, and how if only one element is out, the whole system is weakened?
You may have the most impressive Web site of any camp in your area… beautifully designed, elegantly constructed… flawless in every way.
But… if your brochure does not grab the interest of the folks you want, with strong images that convey safety and fun along with concise, compelling copy, then how are people going to find out how wonderful your Web site is?
If the photos are not well done, either too dark or too light; if the words on the pages are not composed very well, without typos and grammatical errors; if there is so much information in the brochure that it's a challenge for anyone to look at, let alone read; or if there is too little information, it may not support your other efforts as well as it could.
A note about brochure content… Most marketing is a multi-step process. As I mentioned before, many camps use the brochure as a tool to drive folks to the Web site for more information, and then to sign up there.
Your brochure does not need, nor should it have, every bit of information about your camp. All it really needs is enough information to move the people to take the next step; in this case to go to the Web site.
The Web site will have all the details, all the history, and the nitty-gritty about your camp. Try not to overburden your brochure with information that is too dense for people to appreciate.
Just as a weak brochure cannot properly support a great Web site, the opposite can also happen. A great brochure can be undermined by a weak Web site.
Your camp has spent a lot of time and money to craft a truly great brochure. It is visually compelling, with great pictures, glowing testimonials, and words that move the reader to action. They simply must have more info about your camp… they want to sign up, and they want to do it online… right now!
They type in your Web address and… Whammo! Right up against a brick wall. They were cruising along so well, and then they land on your site. And you lose them.
Maybe it looks amateurish, compared to the brochure. Maybe it's difficult to move through, or information is hard to find, or it's difficult to register, or it's just plain disappointing. It does not support the great brochure. It is inconsistent, and as such, it sets up a psychological domino effect that potential campers may not even be aware of at the time. But they might feel cheated, they might feel uncomfortable, and they may be unsure about continuing the process any further. You have lost them. All because one element did not support your camp the way you thought it did.
These are only two very basic examples of the effect of missing the big picture of holistic branding. But there are many other elements as well.
It does not stop with getting the big things right. It should extend all the way down to the increasingly smaller and smaller elements that go into creating your holistic brand.
Holistic branding includes the camp facilities, the activities available, the attitudes of the staff, the clothing the staff wears, the look of your letterhead and envelopes, the cleanliness of the grounds, the food in the mess hall and canteen, the way you stay in touch with families who have inquired into your camp (even if they have not attended in the past), how you communicate with campers and families in the off season… it all goes into creating your holistic brand.
Even something as simple as answering the phone can affect your brand. Using a polite, confident, happy voice can go a long way toward making families comfortable with your camp.
Imagine seeing a great brochure and a wonderful Web site, and then calling the camp office and instead of being greeted with a hearty, "Thank you for calling Camp Tango...the home for summer fun. How may I help you?" the first thing you hear is "Hello," and that's it!
All the work and effort of creating strong consistent materials dashed, because someone wasn't on the same page one day.
It is the consistent effort that makes the grade. Make sure all the elements of your marketing program fit into the whole. Each effort will contribute to creating the brightest face for your camp; the one you want people to see, the one that kids will enjoy, and parents will trust.
Tim Diering is the Vice President of Marketing at Summer Camp Design, a full service marketing and design firm. He can be reached at (800) 957 7175, at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.summercampdesign.com.